Dad. You thrive in my dreams. You fly on a magic carpet
of colors. I wish to join you, but you don’t involve me.
I see you falling from the sky. You look like a ship,
large, mechanical, and terrifying. When you land at my feet,
you transform into an organism, a salamander.
Even so, you look more threatening than the ship.
As if you’re hearing my thoughts, you decide to become
a lungfish with a large head. I stroke your head, your eyes
so beautiful. You’ve evolved in your choice of breathing
organs and sound, equipped with extra lungs. How perfect!
No more fluid build-up, oxygen therapy, or the pills you hated.
We laugh about how we both love eating fish. We walk to my
house which is big and made of glass like a greenhouse of plants.
You do not use the door but squeeze in-between the wall and floor,
then crawl into the living room. There’s no telling your limits.
I step outside to call an aquatic company that owns a swimming pool
and specializes in creatures like you. I want to buy you a tank. I fidget
with my phone and desperately press numbers which get erased
the moment they reach three. How to dial a full ten? Eventually,
I return to the room and find that you’ve died in a blue bucket
after chopping yourself to pieces. My sister appears and wants
to cook you. I am distressed. I tell her you’re not a fish! A slice
of salmon materializes and my sister says, Some fish are red,
others whitish-brown—which is the color you are now. Like tilapia,
she adds. I don’t see her point, although I feel less troubled.
The Man Who Changed His Name Twice
Is now old. He lives in the country
plowing land from sunrise to twilight.
He grows carrots, cucumbers and
cauliflower, but he never eats them.
He tends an orchard—mixed fruit trees
and grapes. He makes wine he drinks.
Smells of rancid olives, bitter,
and the color of bruised blackberries.
Every time he squeezes grapes
he cries, remembering the lives
he took, and those he’d promised
to serve and protect but left behind.
He buries the pain in the soil
while tending the veggies.
Can’t stand chopping,
Can’t stop breaking.
Are You Now Afraid for Your Color?
Awake, my people, awake
To love, to burning love
Feel once more the heat of your desire,
Sensuous needs you so callously crucify.
The world does not need your decorum,
your modicum, your sacrifice
The world needs your rage,
your radiant joy, your outrageous gladness.
Rake the logs, rouse the embers
Breathe the fire and consume the darkness
Ignite the bones that have forgotten the power
of touch. Dispel the blanket of sepia gloom.
Bring back pleasure, delicious flavor
And the music that’s your heartbeat.
Aching joy, astounding joy,
The sound of your laughter.
Mildred Kiconco Barya is a writer from Uganda now living in North Carolina. Her publications include three poetry books, as well as prose, hybrids, and poems published in Shenandoah, Joyland, The Cincinnati Review, Tin House, and elsewhere. Her fourth full-length poetry collection, The Animals of My Earth School, is forthcoming from Terrapin Books, 2023. She’s working on a collection of creative nonfiction essays, Being Here in This Body. Barya is a board member of African Writers Trust and coordinates the Poetrio Reading events at Malaprop’s Independent Bookstore/Café. She teaches creative writing and literature at UNC-Asheville. She blogs at MildredBarya.com . She is on twitter at MidiBarya and on instagram at MidiBarya.
Leave a Comment
Great piece .